THE ABAD SANTOS BROTHERS
By: Quennie Ann J. Palafox
Decades ago, the family name Abad Santos was widely-spoken in the political stream. The Abad Santos brothers gained prominence during the pre-Commonwealth Era and World War II because of their involvement in politics and social movement. Pedro, the older brother, was the founder of the Socialist Party of the Philippines, a forerunner of the peasant and labor movements in the country and considered the champion of the masses because of his good heart for lowly laborers who were victims of injustice. His younger brother Jose, the soft spoken one, was a trusted public servant and member of the cabinet of former President Manuel L. Quezon. Although similar blood runs in their veins, their views differed in several things. Pedro sympathized with the poor landless farmers and critical of the government while Jose was identified with the government, and consequently with the elite.
Pedro Abad Santos was born on January 31, 1876 in San Fernando, Pampanga. He was the eldest of the ten children of Vicente Abad Santos and Toribia Basco. Pedro’s younger brother, Jose Abad Santos or Senseng, was born on February 19, 1886.
The older Pedro finished his elementary education in private and public schools of his hometown. Pedro took his secondary education at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in 1891 at the University of Santo Tomas. Subsequently, he finished law and was admitted to the bar in 1906. While the younger Jose started his early education in the school of Don Felix Dizon and in the public school established by the Americans in San Fernando, Pampanga. As a student, Jose was brilliant and hardworking. In 1904, he was one among the few who were chosen as pensionados and sent by the Americans to study in Santa Clara College in California, where he eventually received his certificate of secondary education. Jose finished at the Northwestern University his Bachelor of Laws degree on June 4, 1908. Not satisfied with his undergraduate degree, he pursued Master of Laws at the George Washington University and finished it on June 19, 1909. He could have practiced law in the United States because he passed the bar in 1911, but Jose decided to go back to the Philippines to serve his countrymen where he would eventually land a job as temporary clerk in the Archives Division of the Executive Bureau.
Both brothers became law practitioner. Pedro served as Justice of the Peace (Juez de Paz) in San Fernando, Pampanga from 1907 to 1909. He took the job as a councilor of his town from January, 1910 until March, 1912. He was twice elected delegate of the Second District of Pampanga to the Philippine Assembly, and served from 1916 to 1922. Jose was appointed assistant attorney in the Bureau of Justice on July 31, 1914. In 1917, he was reappointed assistant attorney in the said Bureau and at the same time served as counsel for the Philippine National Bank. In 1919, Abad Santos was named one of the six technical advisers to the first Parliamentary Independence mission to the United States. In 1918, Jose married a town mate, Amanda Teopaco, with whom he had five children. On the other hand, Pedro remained a bachelor.
Pedro became sympathetic to the miserable situations of the poor farmers who tilled the lands of the rich landowners and were often subject to the abuses of the latter. He was determined to uplift the welfare of the masses. In 1932, he began propagating unionism and advocating land reform because of rampant cases of land grabbing by the elite. He even criticized Quezon’s “social justice program,” calling it a paper plan. A revolutionary radical, he often had heated arguments with his younger brother Jose who was Quezon’s Secretary of Justice. A member of the prominent and affluent clan himself, Pedro allied with the peasants, thus, he was considered a traitor by the wealthy people.
Pedro did not enrich himself from law practice. He rendered free legal services to farmers in their cases against their landlord and eventually founded the Socialist Party of the Philippines on October 26, 1932. Don Perico, as he was lovingly called by the peasants, also founded the Aguman Ding Malding Talapagobra (AMT) or the General Workers Union which was an organization of rural workers fighting for the improvement of working conditions of peasants, the expropriation of landed estates and friar lands and the establishment of farmer cooperatives.
On November 7, 1938, Don Perico’s Socialist Party merged with Evangelista’s PKP during a convention at the Manila Opera House and adopted the name “Communist Party of the Philippines” as the official name of the union of the PSP and the PKP. Don Perico became its Vice President. The party hoped to fight for the workers and peasants through a legal and parliamentary struggle.
When the Second World War broke out, the Japanese military police arrested Don Perico and imprisoned him at Fort Santiago. He was released in 1944 after his eyesight started to fail and because of a stomach ailment. He lived among his relatives until he fully recovered. He then went to President Jose P. Laurel for advice as the Japanese were again looking for him. Don Perico decided to go underground and fight alongside the Hukbalahaps under Luis Taruc.
On the other hand, Jose, a trusted member of the cabinet of President Quezon, was left behind to head the government. He was arrested by the Japanese in Carcar, Cebu, and asked to swear allegiance to the Japanese government. Justice Abad Santos refused to cooperate with the enemies. He was taken to Parang, Cotabato and then to Malabang, Lanao del Sur, where he was executed on May 2, 1942 at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Jose Abad Santos gave up his life rather than violate his moral principles. Abad Santos died in the service of the country. He could have lived as he wished to but he preferred to die than be considered a traitor to his country. Pedro died inside a Huk base in Minalin, Pampanga, Don Perico suffered complications of stomach ulcer and died on January 15, 1945 at the age of 69.